Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister
by Lisa Stock (director), 2009
reviewed by Deborah J. Brannon

Presently the children found a little brook dancing and glittering over the stones, and brother was eager to drink of it, but as it rushed past sister heard it murmuring:
“Who drinks of me will be a tiger! Who drinks of me will be a tiger!”
So she cried out, “Oh! dear brother, pray don’t drink, or you’ll be turned into a wild beast and tear me to pieces.”
Brother was dreadfully thirsty, but he did not drink.

“Very well,” said he, “I’ll wait till we come to the next spring.”
When they came to the second brook, sister heard it repeating too:
“Who drinks of me will be a wolf! Who drinks of me will be a wolf!”
And she cried, “Oh! brother, pray don’t drink here either, or you’ll be turned into a wolf and eat me up.”

Again brother did not drink, but he said:

“Well, I’ll wait a little longer till we reach the next stream, but then, whatever you may say, I really must drink, for I can bear this thirst no longer.”

From “Brother and Sister,” collected by the Brothers Grimm
and available in annotated form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales.

I remember, perhaps ten years ago, first reading Terri Windling‘s “Brother and Sister.” I was in college, on my own for the first time and, in several private ways, learning what it was to survive. It was the afternoon, golden light sliding through autumn trees and filtering through an unclothed window. I was thumbing through one of my favorite sites, The Endicott Studio, and there it was.

do you remember, brother / those days in the wood…

I read, rapt. I read again. And then I abandoned that cold dorm room of linoleum and concrete for the college green with its fringe of wood. I ached to leap and run, but I settled for hugging my goosebumped-arms and walking down to the white gazebo near the pond with its overgrown banks. Perhaps I wrote some; perhaps I only dreamed. Windling’s words rattled inside me, sowing fierce joy and nettling discontent.

It’s a poem that I never forgot, and one that has followed me. I re-encountered it in a used copy of The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors, so assiduously sought out and purchased through AbeBooks a year later. There it was again, in The Poets’ Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales, an anthology I received as a Yuletide gift one year. When I donated to the Endicott Studio several years later and received a Windling print, was it any surprise that I didn’t even hesitate before selecting Brother and Sister?

Now, today, I discovered Lisa Stock’s short film adaptation of the original German fairy tale and Terri Windling’s poem. The film’s setting invokes the ubiquitous Wood; the actors are dreamy and subtle. The animation is by turns spare and opulent, yet always elegant. The music by Priscilla Hernandez is perfectly evocative. The deer costumes reverberate mythically, and the crown by Parrish Relics is a work of art. Much as Terri Windling’s original poem, the film drew me in and left me rapt. When, at last, Michelle Santagate spoke the Sister’s words from Windling’s poem, I again felt that fierce joy singing through my veins. If there is any weakness to this film, it is that you must be familiar with the original tale to fully appreciate it; yet I don’t consider this a true weakness, but rather an inherent promotion of dialogue among the iterations of “Brother and Sister.”

I exhort you all to watch it, as I did, and let yourself be submerged.

Click on the movie poster above to watch the short film.

You can read more about “Brother and Sister” (as well as see a behind the scenes video) and discover other films by Lisa Stock at her website, InByTheEye.

It would be terribly remiss of me to close without mentioning the Mythic Film Festival, pioneered by Lisa Stock and Connie Toebe. The first annual Mythic Film Festival is set to take place on April 30th through May 2nd, 2010, in New York City. In their own words, “[o]ur mission is to support and promote filmmakers working in the mythic arts and independently of the studio system. The work of those who find myth and metaphor to be the conduit of their imagination. Our goal is to celebrate these films in the spirit of a festival, rather than the grind of competition.” For those interested in entering a film into the Festival, attending what promises to be an amazing event, or otherwise supporting the Festival’s mission, please visit the website for more information.

Photography by Lisa Stock, images used with permission.